Enigmatic Word of the Day: Hypostasis

Literally: that which stands beneath

I tried asking Fr. John today why hypostasis is so important in Orthodox theology. He got kind of excited, and said that way long ago it meant nature, but St. Basil the Great, in an extremely important act of theological genius (those weren’t his words, but he was very excited at this point; something about it being the most important meaning change in history) changed the meaning to person, because we do not and cannot know the nature of a being in the abstract, but only as manifested in particular persons. So Christ is a hypostatic union of humanity and divinity because he inseparably unites human and divine nature in a single person. But that’s still mysterious – perhaps necessarily so – hence, being an enigmatic rather than neglected word. One of these days I should find out what it was St. Basil wrote where he talked about that stuff.


7 thoughts on “Enigmatic Word of the Day: Hypostasis

    • According to the dictionary it means:
      1. Coming before; preceding.
      2. Expectant; anticipatory.
      Most often used as “previenient grace” – “the doctrine that there is a divine enabling grace extended to all mankind, prior to and without reference to anything they may have done. This grace restores man’s free will, which was corrupted by the effects of original sin, and enables him to choose or refuse the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ.

      “This doctrine is embraced in Arminianism, especially those of the Wesleyan tradition. John Wesley typically referred to it in 18th century language as preventing grace. In modern American vernacular, it is better termed preceding grace. It is noted that the term prevenient (or preceding) grace may also be found in Puritan writings, but in this sense it is not “universal” and is rather part of God’s effectual call which precedes conversion. ”


      Why were you asking?

  1. you mentioned it several times I thought but maybe you mentioned some other term that had something to do with coming before–with regard to church services I believe. Thanks for looking it up for me. I am going to the cite you used–it might come in handy.

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